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Darensburg v. Metropolitan Transportation Commission

ELR Citation: 41 ELR 20101
Nos. No. 09-15878, (9th Cir., 02/16/2011)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision rejecting claims that a transportation commission's disproportionate emphasis on rail expansion projects over bus expansion projects in its regional transit plan illegally discriminates against minorities. Although the plaintiffs’ statistical evidence shows that minorities make up a greater percentage of the regional population of bus riders than rail riders, it does not necessarily follow that an expansion plan that emphasizes rail projects over bus projects will harm minorities. The plaintiffs’ theory forecloses altogether the possibility that the commission could devise any rail-centered expansion that could benefit minority transit riders, while the evidence shows that minorities already benefit substantially from rail service. Without a more precise statistical measure of how the particular projects included in the commission's plan will serve the community's transit ridership, no court could possibly determine whether the commission's long-term expansion plan will help or harm the region’s minority transit riders. The plaintiffs’ failure to provide an appropriate measure of disparate impact also fatally undermines their claim of intentional discrimination. Not only does the plaintiffs’ statistical evidence fail to prove discrimination, but their circumstantial evidence does not support any inference that the commission's adoption of the transit expansion plan was motivated by racial bias.